Fleetwood flurry could beat gusts in Tampa
5 Min Read
Written by Ben Everill @BEverillPGATOUR
As we head towards the second round of the Valspar Championship, we’ve been warned that steady winds are due at the Copperhead Course on Friday with gusts pushing up towards 25mph as the day moves into the afternoon.
If this does indeed come to fruition than those players getting out early, particularly those starting on the back nine, could be in for a treat of an advantage.
Not only are the first five holes on the back side of the course playing a little easier this week than those on the front (three under / four over) but these players will hit the tough Snake Pit at its tamest.
On Thursday the par-4 16th hole played toughest at 4.431, with the par-3 17th at 3.090 and the par-4 18th fifth hardest at 4.146. The venomous run was a combined 96-over from the field. Add variable wind gusts and it will only get tougher.
DRAWS: Outright winner
Tommy Fleetwood (-3, T7, +1100 to win with BetMGM)
Fleetwood is due back out at 8:18 a.m. for the second round off the 10th tee and strikes me as a guy who can get ahead of the wind and set up a possible clubhouse lead. Inside the top 25 in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach and Around the Green and ninth Tee to Green. Needed just 26 putts and still missed a few shorter ones. If more start dropping, this could be the week he finally grabs his PGA TOUR win.
Justin Thomas (-2, T12, +900 to win with BetMGM)
It felt like a day where Thomas did not get full value out of his golf and yet he is still very well poised just three off the pace. One poor double bogey stopped his hot start and adding insult to injury, it came on a par 5. He won’t make the same mistake again. He’s ranked eighth in the field in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green and third in SG: Around the Green. His putter wasn’t fully cooperative on Thursday (-0.113), the same club hurting him this season (ranked 144th), but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he can pick up his efforts Friday as his competitive edge kicks in. With a week off upcoming, he has nothing but this title to be focused on short term.
Sam Burns (-2, T12, +1200 to win with BetMGM)
In reasonable shape for his quest to go back-to-back-to-back despite some late stumbles. Doesn’t have the early tee time luxury like Fleetwood, but is just hard to ignore given his course success. Call this a draw without over confidence.
FADES: Outright winner
Jordan Spieth (-4, T4, +600)
Time for me to double down here. Pre-tournament I suggested this was a week NOT to be on Spieth to win and while he held the lead a few times throughout the opening round and now sits just one back, I am going to stick with my early instinct. Spieth was incredible on the greens on Thursday, leading the field in Strokes Gained: Putting (+4.530). But it is this effort of just 26 putts, and 147’9” inches of putts made, that brings concern.
Coming into the week Spieth was ranking 114th, and while it held up Thursday, can he keep that up while not hitting it well Tee to Green? Spieth hit just five of 13 fairways in round one and if that holds true, he will need a supersonic putter all week.
“You do that around this place and shoot under par, it's pretty solid. I was able to sneak a couple extras with the putter today,” Spieth said. “I've been feeling like my putting's been working towards where I really want it to be. I felt like I made a few really nice par saves from that 4- to 8-foot range that kept that round alive. Bogey-free around this track is not something you're going to do every day. So very pleased with it.”
DRAWS: Top 5/10
Justin Rose (E, T32, +650 for top 5, +280 for Top 10 with DraftKings)
The veteran who recently won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am had an unusually less accurate approach game firing on Thursday ranking 101st in Strokes Gained: Approach (-0.754) at Innisbrook. It is well below his season rank of 34th (+0.483) so I am expecting a return to his norm, coupled with an 8:18a.m. tee time off the 10th hole. He ranked second Off the Tee in the opening round, a metric I expect he takes advantage of from here on out.
FADES: Top 10
Ryan Brehm (-5, T1, +500 for a Top 10 with DraftKings)
While some might like to ride a hot hand in sports betting, in golf this doesn’t always translate. Brehm might be a co-leader after one round but it was helped along by his first career PGA TOUR ace on the tough 17th. Brehm had made just three of 17 cuts coming into this week and finished THE PLAYERS with a round of 80. At 155th in the FedExCup and 171st in par breakers on par 3s this was not something anyone likely saw coming. Such is this outlier that I’m not prepared to say he definitely makes the weekend, let alone stays in contention. He was 19th SG: Approach up from season rank of 183rd and he led the field Off-the-Tee Thursday while ranking 169th this season.
The PGA TOUR is committed to protecting our fans. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, the National Council on Problem Gambling operates a confidential toll-free hotline that you can reach by phone or text at 1-800-522-4700.
Senior Writer, Golfbet Follow Ben Everill on Twitter.